Let’s say your family has just started coming to a new church and you’re starting to think that you’d like to start treating it like “your” church. What now? How do you get “plugged in” or “connected”? Why are all our church metaphors electronic, by the way? I digress. I was thinking through this question today so I decided to just record my unorganized thoughts here. Read at your own risk!
Step 1: Get really familiar with what this church believes and practices
What does their statement of faith say? Do they even have a statement of faith? That will tell you a lot. Do they believe that God is Triune (Father, Son and Spirit)? Do they believe the Bible is God’s Word and without error? Do they believe that baptism is just for believers (i.e., someone who can decide for themselves to repent and believe)? Do they believe Jesus is God in the flesh? Do they believe that he died to actually pay for our sins? Do they believe he actually rose from the dead in the same body that was crucified?
Next, what does their church covenant say? Do they even have one? A church covenant is simply a document that summarizes what the Bible teaches about how Christians are supposed to live and worship together. It will explain what they mean when they use the word “membership” or when they talk about “joining the church”. It’s a simple way of saying “this is how we want to relate to God and one another.”
Finally, who are the leaders of the church? Are there multiple leaders or “elders” as described in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 or is the church controlled by a “boss”? Are there areas where they share authority with the congregation?
Step 2: Think and pray through whether or not you could happily join the church and partner with them in ministry.
If you’ve become acquainted with what the church believes, ask:
- Do I believe the same things this church believes?
- Am I ready to commit myself to the good of the other believers here?
- Do I have a desire to let this body of believers help me follow Jesus?
- Do I have a desire to help others follow Jesus along with these believers?
- Could I happily accept the leadership of the pastors/elders?
Having gone through any necessary steps to formally join the church, move on to:
Step 3: Prioritize Sunday Morning Worship
Hebrews 10:24-25, “24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
One of the main ways that God intends to encourage believers is through the regular assembly for worship on the Lord’s Day. The word church literally means, “assembly” and Hebrews 10 tells us that assembly is meant to stir us up to love, good works and encouragement. You can’t be connected if you neglect the assembly. It’s also one of the main ways that you disciple your family without even saying a word. Regularly sacrificing other plans in order to assemble with believers shows your family and the world what is most important in this life: worshipping the one true God and equipping yourself for ministry in his world.
Step 4: Don’t Feel Pressured to ‘Pick a Ministry’
Many churches have been taught that to help people feel connected they need to be given “a job” to do right away. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with jumping in right away if that feels natural to you. However, in my opinion, no one should feel pressured to pick a ministry or find a job right away. First, we don’t want people to feel like they’re wanted simply because they’re useful. We want them to feel wanted because they’re wanted. Second, anytime you’re joining a “new team” it’s helpful to focus on relationships first rather than tasks and jobs first. Strong relationships will make for more fruitful ministry anyway. So, just worship and focus on getting to know people.
Step 5: Practice and Accept Hospitality
This is the outgrowth of step 4. Just decide to take advantage of any opportunities the Lord gives you to practice hospitality. Have people over to your house for a meal, go out for ice-cream, host a game night in your back-yard, etc. If it seems like you’re not getting these opportunities start praying for them to happen or just start getting to know the elders and their families. Ask your pastor if there are other people who are eager to get connected to other people. Example: Maybe there are a few college students or young single adults who frequently “fall through the cracks”. You might not have a lot in common with these young people but you might be a real blessing to them if you made a home cooked meal for them once in a while or invited them over for a family movie night. The goal of getting connected isn’t to find all the people who are just like you. It’s to minister and be ministered to. That goal need not be hindered by age limits.
That’s what I’ve got so far…how about you? What has helped you get better acquainted and involved with your new church?